Looking for a theatre in Madagascar? How about penguins instead?

Status of the Artist Freedom of Artistic Expression and Cultural Policy Cultural Diversity AfroFIA FIA Campaigns and Solidarity News

If you Google “theatre in Madagascar” nowadays, all you are likely to get is information about a popular animation movie starring a flock of penguins, a fine play by TJ Rogers or a new musical act. If you think you have mistyped your query, don’t bother repeating your search: there simply is no professional theatre left in the forth-largest island in the world, about twice the size of the US state of Arizona.

FIA first became aware of the miserable state of live performance in the country back in 2012, when the Malagasy Artist Theatre Association presented an emergency resolution at the federation’s last world Congress in Toronto. The resolution, unanimously approved by the FIA membership, flagged up the critical state of the last theatrical venue in the capital, the Theatre Municipal d’Isotry, whose utter deterioration made performing there an act of bravery and resistance. Since 2010 the theatre has almost exclusively hosted religious ceremonies, whilst actors have had to express their art in unconventional places, often at a significant personal cost, in their quest to keep theatrical production alive in the country.

The 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, which Madagascar ratified, marked the commitment by member States to foster sustainable cultural environments and greater respect for the role of artists. Sadly, quite the opposite appears to have happened in Madagascar.

Madagascar has been though troubled political times and ranks today as one of the poorest countries in Africa and the world. However, free elections were finally held in 2015, delivering a promise of stability and development. FIA strongly believes in the power of arts and culture to promote democracy, social awareness and economic growth and, for this reason, urges the new Malagasy government to rebuild its theatrical infrastructure and promote a creative environment where performers may freely express their art for the wider benefit of society. All affiliates are encouraged to join FIA in raising awareness about the need to give the people of Madagascar back their theatre.

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